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3 HIT Infrastructure Tips for Success in Healthcare VDI Resurgence

An updated network, a strong storage layer, and a proper computing layer are key for entities as healthcare VDI options continue to grow.

Healthcare VDI

Source: Thinkstock

By Bill Kleyman

- I get the chance to work with healthcare organizations around the entire country. This includes major hospital chains, smaller clinics, and specialized healthcare like orthopedics. Over the course of the last five years or so, the use of virtualization has continued to increase within these healthcare organizations. And not just virtualization, but specifically, healthcare VDI.

In the past, technologies like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) were seen as heavy, forklift projects that required time, resources, dedicated infrastructure and big budgets. Well, there’s good news. That has changed with advancements within network, compute, and the storage layer.

Desktop virtualization helps reduce desktop IT costs, improves security, increases control, and expands connectivity. With robust healthcare VDIs, desktops are hosted in your data center and can be accessed from any device, anywhere. This allows you to support new healthcare service models and improve both IT operations and user (patient) satisfaction.

The demand for VDI continues to grow because of some great use-cases within the healthcare world. For example:

  • BYOD initiatives
  • Onboarding/offboarding users
  • Acquisitions and mergers
  • Remote clinics and locations
  • Workstations-on-wheels and kiosks

The list can absolutely go on. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are some big infrastructure advancements that are helping push VDI forward within healthcare. So, if you have VDI today or are looking to expand your environment, consider the following infrastructure tips to make your initiative more successful.

Network

READ MORE: How Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Supports Patient Care

Believe me when I tell you that the network layer within healthcare data centers has become a lot smarter. Physical switches and the software technologies interacting with the network ecosystem have truly come a long way. Solutions like those form Cisco leverage advanced software-defined networking technologies like ACI to interact with numerous other underlying components. Furthermore, this allows you to create automation and orchestration capabilities. Basically, you enable a zero-touch network provisioning platform for your VDI environment. Deeper into the virtualization layer, solutions like those from VMware NSX allow you to integrate vast virtualization systems to make VDI a powerfully agile platform. Legacy networking technologies can create cumbersome solutions. If you’re looking to deploy or expand your VDI solution, make sure your network can keep up.

Storage

In my opinion, the storage layer was the biggest advancement and enabler for VDI systems. Traditional disk-based storage is optimized for high-capacity, modest performance and read-heavy workloads – the exact opposite of VDI, which is write-heavy, very high performance, and low-capacity. The result is that as performance lags, spindle after spindle of legacy disk storage has to be thrown at VDI, causing a spike in infrastructure costs and a spike in management complexity. Throughout my experience, I often see that many customers still compare all-flash arrays to legacy disk storage systems. In fact, traditional disk-based systems are fundamentally different than all-flash arrays (AFA). It’s even difficult to compare other AFAs with each other. Still, leaders in the space like Pure Storage create an architecture built around density, data reduction, high availability (HA)/resiliency, and simplicity. Plus, the evolution of NVMe systems are making all-flash platforms even more impactful. That’s the difference in technology, and the big difference in how you can deploy a more powerful VDI solution. Your storage ecosystem can be the powerful enabler to VDI solutions.

Compute

The latest processor technologies like those from Intel are taking CPU horsepower to the next level. But it’s not just the processor. We’re seeing advancements in how RAM is utilized and deployed and where it can be leveraged as cache. Furthermore, vendors like HPE, Cisco, and Dell EMC are advancing integration with the entire data center model. That is, we’re no longer seeing islands of compute. Rather, even standalone servers are now directly tied into overall data center operations. Here’s another point to remember: the technologies that are further enabling and enhancing today’s servers are improving as well. GPU solutions like those from NVIDIA are increasing vGPU densities and are allowing for the delivery of very content-rich applications like imaging, x-ray processing, data analytics, and much more. The compute layer is a key component for next-generation VDI capabilities.

As you read these individual components remember that you can absolutely deploy them as part of a converged (CI) or hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). CI and HCI are amazing ways to consolidate your data center, improve levels of density, and deliver more virtual healthcare services. However, as part of your converged model, it’s still critical to make sure you’re using the right underlying components to ensure optimal performance.

VDI can be a powerful tool to help you scale. Make sure you’re using the right components to make this happen.